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The Harber Legacy?
a column by Nelson Thibodeaux
Updated 08/18/06 08:58:52 PM   

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August 19, 2006 Colleyville
What happened at FBCC?  Harber adopted the philosophy that the pastor is  the "unquestioned ruler of the church" 

Dr. Frank Harber

This news site broke the story about the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Colleyville (FBCC) plans to play in the Hooters Golf Tournament and again was the first to report on the land deal involving Harber and the First Baptist Church of Celina.  Yesterday, LNO was the first to report that Harber had resigned from FBCC.

When the traveling evangelist took the Senior Pastor position in 2001, he  was touted as a charismatic young leader that would energize the 50 year old church. Harber and his young family were seen at community events and seemed to be very approachable and "as advertised."

I hope the talent of Frank Harber along with his beautiful wife Becky and children remain in the Colleyville area with a renewed dedication to the Gospel, except in a different church of his vision.

In 2001, Frank Harber seemed very accessible as he and his young family attended the Colleyville Lions
Club Breakfast with Santa event.

Over time, FBCC began to morph into into the personality of Frank Harber's more global vision versus the role of FBCC as a local community church.  The message of the church began to be packaged in slick marketing materials.  Harber introduced theme sermons with a series of messages that were coordinated with sophisticated marketing and sent to residents in Colleyville and many neighboring cities.  One campaign included a "jury summons" that created considerable adverse publicity and unhappy county officials. This year, mailings have been sent out touting Harber's series of sermons to Keller, North Richland Hills and others, however, many times not to Colleyville residents.

Ads like this, with photos of Harber, were introduced in multi-media advertising, such as local movie theaters.
Reflective of a more global plan was this ad where the role in Colleyville seemed somewhat diminished versus a commitment to NE Tarrant, America and the World!

Some FBCC members opposed the concept of moving the church. Although a congregational vote turned down Harber's expansion approach, four members, Joe Deupree, Patsy Smith, Skip Mattson and Danny Walker, seen above, had their membership at FBCC "revoked" because of their "disruptive opposition".

Dr. Harber, who continued to have his personal ministry "Got Life," radio programs, books and Internet sales of items, also said he wanted to move FBCC because the church needed new facilities due to tremendous growth.  When a vote of members went against him, he oversaw a quick change of the by-laws providing him with greatly expanded power and authority.

The new by-laws did away with the Board of Trustees and replaced it with a "Leadership Board" of Harber and six hand picked members.  Harber became inaccessible to media and even members of FBCC. He moved his offices from the church and brought on hire guns to run his PR and provide legal interference, both with previous ties to the Benny Hinn Ministries.

Harber was previously a professor of evangelism at Southwestern Seminary with close ties to the President Paige Patterson and former President Ken Hemphill.  It was Hemphill who told the story of how Harber was "house hunting" and got lost when he stopped at the offices of the Colleyville First Baptist only to find out for the "first time" the church was actively seeking a new pastor. In July 2001, Harber was hired as the Senior Pastor of FBCC. A number of members often questioned the coincidence of the initial visit to FBCC.

Southwestern President Patterson offered this viewpoint as part of his contribution in the book "Who Runs the Church?" 

Harber said that four members of the FBCC congregation were divisive because of their stated positions opposing his. Their membership at the church was revoked.  However, in an interview in the fall of 2000, Patterson noted that it was "more difficult to be disciplined by a church than it is to be disciplined by the Lions Club."

(As a eight year member of the Colleyville Lions Club, I can tell Dr. Patterson he is mistaken in his assumptions below, otherwise some of us Lions would have been already out!)

The following excerpts are taken from an interview with Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, conducted by Dr. Mark Dever and Mr. Matt Schmucker of the Center for Church Reform in the Fall of 2000.
Patterson: Here's the pity of it. It is easier to get into a church than it is to join the Rotary Club. It is more difficult to be disciplined by a church than it is to be disciplined by the Lions Club. If you're a member of the Lions Club (if I understand it correctly) and you miss four weeks in a row, you're out. If you're out of town for four weeks in a row, you better find a Lions Club in that city wherever you are and attend or you're going to be out. So, the sad state of affairs that exists in many of our churches now is church membership is meaningless. Therefore there is nothing appealing to the people on the block as they look at the church members who live there. They look no different than the others.

While Harber announced his passion for golf at the Hooter's Tournament, his hobby seems benign when compared to Paige Patterson's reputation for killing numerous big game animals in Africa.
In 1999, two members of the Mainstream Baptist Network,  Dr. Rick McClatchy and Dr. Bruce Prescott, wrote an article titled " How the SBC has Changed   ( Southern Baptist Convention) outlining Patterson's plan to take over the SBC and his position on the role of the Baptist minister versus that of congregational member rights.

In the late 1970s two men, Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, devised a plan to takeover the Southern Baptist Convention and change its direction. Their strategy inserted an alien winner-take-all system of power politics into the life of our denomination.

The Patterson-Pressler coalition changed the role of the pastor in Baptist church life.

In traditional Baptist thought all members of the church were seen as equal ministers with different spiritual gifts — a doctrine referred to as the priesthood of believers. The role of the pastor in this context was to preach and teach, to train the congregation for service, to care for the needs of the congregation, and to provide administrative coordination to the work of the church. Pastors were viewed as servants of the church.

The Patterson-Pressler coalition insists that the pastor is the unquestioned ruler of the church.

Bruce Prescott is Host of "Religious Talk" on KREF radio at 11:00 each Sunday Morning and Executive Director of the Mainstream Baptist Organization

The former President of the Southwestern Seminary, Ken Hemphill,  and Frank Harber are also listed as the co-founders of the "Got Life Ministries". Among items for sale on their Website is a leadership program for $189.95.

Leader G.E.A.R.
The Leader G.E.A.R. is designed for those in leadership positions who will be teaching the got life?� system. Each LEADER G.E.A.R. contains: (3) Action G.E.A.R. (3) Training G.E.A.R. (2) 70 minute Training Videos with Dr. Ken Hemphill and Dr. Frank Harber - These power programs can be used as the teaching material and are creatively formatted in 8 segments that closely follow the TRAINING G.E.A.R. The videos give the viewer important insight into creative evangelism. (1) Promo Video - this short program is designed to be used to create excitement about using the got life?� system to give life to your community. (2) Audio CDs from the soundtrack of the Training Video for additional use in memorizing the material. (1) Multimedia G.E.A.R. - this powerful multimedia CD uses animation, sound and creative design that can be used when teaching or presenting the got life?

While active in "Got Life," and a former professor at the seminary, FBCC was Dr. Frank Harber's first time to pastor a church. 

Prior to accepting the position, Harber was quoted in
Christianity Today in April 2000
Sincerity doesn't determine truth, however. One can be sincerely convinced of the truth—and be sincerely wrong. For example, many evil men such as Hitler were very sincere in their beliefs. God judges people based on truth, not opinions—and that truth is Jesus Christ.

After a short time at FBCC, Harber provided the following quote to the Baptist Standard  in September 2002.
"I had never pastored before, had never wanted to be a pastor, and this church had been a victim of infighting and a declining budget and its facilities were in bad shape," Harber explained. "I've been ADD since I was a kid; I am hyper, driven," Harber said. "I am in my element here. The work is never done; nobody can do the job. But it's a privilege. I would do it for free." 

Dr. Harber's first effort as pastor resulted in a power grab designed to replace the authority of the congregation with the pastor as the unquestioned ruler of the church. This author does not pretend to be qualified to offer an opinion of the righteousness of either, however one thing appears very clear in this case.  Dr. Harber's adaptation of Patterson's teaching at FBCC (that his authority was not to be challenged), had the effect of a dynamic evangelist becoming estranged from many of his own members.  

He became more disconnected from reality as by-laws were changed in a scam of a vote by members and surrounded himself with individuals dedicated to protecting the  "Imperial Ministry of Frank Harber."  How else could one explain a Baptist minister from Texas giving an interview to a newspaper about his entry into a Hooter's Golf Tournament sponsored by a local casino? Why would the same minister, within the same month, orchestrate a land swap that could not possibly pass the smell good test at any church in the nation, much less the possible fraud implications,  unless he believed he was not accountable to any mortal?

In this author's view there is a distinct difference seen in the eyes of the young pastor at the Colleyville Lions event in 2001, versus the pastor seen later in slick marketing materials with an arrogant attitude and a refusal to talk to local media. 

The struggle continues in Southern Baptist Churches with ministers adopting Patterson's concept of their role versus a traditional approach where the pastor is the servant of the congregation.  Potentially as a message from hundreds of member congregations, at the 2006 SBC meeting, Patterson's chosen candidate for SBC President, the Rev. Ronnie Floyd of Springdale, AR, was defeated by an overwhelming margin on the first ballot by South Carolina pastor Frank Page. 

The struggle at FBCC may be just beginning depending on the outcome with the six people on the Leadership Board.  If they continue in their attempt to reserve all power, the "infighting" , that Harber referred  to initially, will look like a love fest compared to what is likely to occur.

One of the four "dechurched" members,  Joe Deupree, told LNO, "I would like to see the church return to a community church and the illegal bylaws adopted under Dr. Harber's leadership be declared null and void.  While I know the legitimate 1990s bylaws require some tweaking, it should be done in a deliberate manner with input from the congregation.  A strong Board of Deacons should materialize and rebuild what is traditionally a First Baptist Church of any city."

Hopefully, the Leadership Board will recognize the potential outcome of a struggle at FBCC and seek to salvage something better out of an otherwise unfortunate event.

The resignation of Frank Harber from FBCC has not and should not be met, by his detractors, with gleeful jubilation.  This phase for Harber and his family is likely to be only a small bump for the talented preacher and his beautiful family. While there are major upheavals potentially still facing FBCC, Dr. Harber should consider starting his own mission church, there are certainly a number of empty buildings in Colleyville, (Krogers, Eckerds?).  He obviously has passionate supporters and a message to deliver. Many members do not believe Dr. Harber should have resigned, that he has done anything wrong and that they would love to follow Dr. Harber to another ministry.  Dr. Harber could start with a solid base and members would clearly know up front his vision of the pastor's role. 

This would allow those with more traditional views for FBCC have their church back in peace and welcome back the members that left because of the internal disputes with Dr. Harber. 

In the meantime, imagine both a revitalized FBCC and a new Colleyville Got Life Ministry Church.  It would be a blessing for all members, regardless of their position, and  we would keep Dr. Harber's considerable talent in the our area as a powerful minister of the Gospel.

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